Big Auto Doubling Down on Big Data

Source: ZDNet.com

Ford’s new CEO eyes software, tech stack as differentiator vs. rivals

New Ford CEO Jim Farley’s plan for the automaker includes a heavy dose of software and services for its commercial vehicle business as well as new consumer experiences to drive loyalty.

Why It’s Hot // The convergence always-on connection and data commercialization brings a world of new opportunities to marketers and brands seeking to redefine their businesses – while also adding fuel the the fiery debate about the trade-offs between privacy and personalized experiences.

Tech and the future of transportation: From here to there

Ford, which is in the middle of a turnaround of its core business, is trying to navigate a shift to electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles as well as an industry that is increasingly more about software. Farley takes over for Jim Hackett, who streamlined the automaker over the last three years.

Farley outlined a series of leadership changes and a plan that includes “expanding its commercial vehicle business with a suite of software services that drive loyalty and recurring revenue streams” and “unleashing technology and software in ways that set Ford apart from competitors.”

In addition, Ford is looking to develop connected vehicles and create new businesses from the Argo AI self-driving system.

Ford is also looking for a new CIO as Jeff Lemmer is retiring Jan. 1. His successor will lead Ford’s technology and software platform.

The tech strategy from Farley lands after a Sept. 16 investor presentation by Kenneth Washington CTO. Washington outlined the connectivity required from smart vehicles in the future that will include 5G, satellites and edge, cloud, and fog computing.

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Washington added that Ford has hired more than 3,000 advanced computing experts to work on the tech stack and surrounding technologies including things like smart cities, mobility services, edge computing, and analytics.

ford-tech-stack.png

He said:

If you were to tear down a future Ford, say, 10 years from now, the biggest difference you’d see is that the software, compute and sensing services are being serviced by a central compute module. And that’s really important because that’s more like we’re accustomed to seeing with the smartphones and the smart devices that we surround ourselves in our homes with every day. So this design that you would see would enable us to really leverage the power of high bandwidth connectivity that happens around the vehicle.

In the future, vehicle changes will be handled with updates via software and algorithms instead of hardware, said Washington. These updates would start with software, but design of electrical architecture as well as shared memory and power systems for various zones of the vehicle would be critical.

Other key points about Ford’s tech stack include:

  • Ford uses QNX, Autosar and Linux to develop is operating system and tech stack.
  • The automaker builds on top of that OS with middleware from its internal software team.
  • In 2020, Ford began equipping most of its redesigned vehicles with the ability for advanced over-the-air updates.
  • The data from those updates on vehicles like the F-150 and Bronco will help Ford iterate.
  • There are 5 million Ford connected vehicles in the field today.
  • Ford sees opportunities in services to optimizes Ford fleets for small business owners.

Wyndham Updates App for Easier Pandemic Travel

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts updated its mobile app to provide features meant to make guests more at-ease during the pandemic. This includes offering mobile check-in and checkout to 6,000 hotels, up from 300 hotels previously.

The app will allow for keyless room entry at select locations, and a gamified “passport” that tracks in-app actions around their loyalty program, like booking a stay or redeeming points. There will also be a “Lightning Book” feature to reserve a room quickly, designed for people on-the-go who want to find the nearest hotel and complete a booking in as few as three taps.

While upscale hotel chains have led the way in investing in mobile capabilities, this move by Wyndham, the parent of brands like La Quinta, Days Inn and Super 8, suggests such features are a must-have for a broader group of economy and midscale hotels. As these brands are largely servicing guests who are traveling by road rather than air, they’ve been holding up better than other chains. While the revenue per available room, a key metric for the hotel industry, fell 81% at luxury hotels in the U.S. in the second quarter, budget hotels experienced only a 44% decline over the period, according to data from analytics firm STR cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Why It’s Hot

The new contactless features along with stronger personalization and gamification of the loyalty program can be a differentiator that helps people return to traveling.

Source

Stories: From Snapchat Teens to LinkedIn Execs

LinkedIn has announced that it will roll out its own version of Stories to all users after completing a trial period in Brazil, Netherlands, UAE, Australia, and France.

Stories–the popular and short lived photo narratives–were first rolled out by Snapchat in 2013. High engagement soon attracted the attention of Facebook, which copied communication tool and rolled it out on its own platforms (FB, IG).

Search Mobile Gif

Why it’s hot: 

In the last century, the U.S. has gone from a society where suits were necessary for office work to people wearing T-shirts on Zoom calls with pets in the background. Beyond creating a new medium for digital advertising, LinkedIn stories may signal the continued movement toward a more informal and personal work and recruitment culture.

Google Maps tracks forest fires in near-real-time

The Verge:

Type in the name of an ongoing wildfire into Google search, and the site will now bring up a map featuring a near-real-time boundary of the fire. Google revealed the feature today, which was piloted in California last year and will now be available across the US.

Google Maps will also update users with road closures and provide them with directions that help them avoid danger and roadblocks. If someone is looking at an area near a blaze on Google Maps, they’ll get an alert.

Getting accurate information to people near a wildfire can save lives. It’s also a constant challenge for emergency responders because the situation can change rapidly, while hearsay online can quickly drown out reputable sources. Google developed the new mapping feature with input from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) as part of an effort to make important updates easier to find.

The problem came to the attention of Yossi Matias, vice president of engineering at Google, in 2010 during the Mount Carmel fire near Haifa, Israel. Matias was working in Google’s Haifa office when his team saw billowing smoke outside. A Google search failed to turn up anything more helpful than what they could already assess from their windows. “While we did find some details confirming what we already knew—a large fire was taking place outside of our door—we experienced a potentially life-impacting information gap,” Matias wrote in a blog post announcing the new mapping feature today.

Now, the same Google search would result in more curated content. The scare Matias and his team experienced led to the development of Google’s SOS Alerts in 2017. Beneath a red banner labeled “SOS Alert,” the search results offer top stories, followed by official updates for emergency situations. Starting today, searches for wildfires will also include a more detailed map showing the boundaries of an active blaze.

Why it’s hot:

As the climate crisis worsens, how much more will we rely on information services such as this? And what forms will that information take with regards to mass migration, air pollution, heat waves, droughts, floods, etc?

Will our phones help us survive? No doubt those with access to such services will be advantaged.

Burger King Face Masks Communicate Customers’ Orders

Consumers who place their orders in advance on Burger King Belgium’s Facebook or Instagram via Burger King’s “Safe Order” service receive a custom-printed version of their order written on a face mask. When they go to pick up their order, they don’t need to speak at all.

Why it’s Hot:

While only available for a limited time, the masks are a fun way to bring awareness to a real problem (talking expels droplets, so wearing a mask and limiting talking makes their restaurants safer) while building affinity for the brand. Plus, having people wear these outside of the Burger King ordering occasion is free advertising for them.

Experts in sitting meets expertise in gaming.

Herman Miller collaborated with Logitech to create the high end gaming chair, made to make you play better.

Herman Miller, long time furniture maker and creator of the famed, Aeron Chair, Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman brings sitting to the next level with the G Embody Gaming Chair. Insert ooos and aahhhs here.

This super sleek chair comes at NBD 1500 dollar price tag.

Does it make sense for them?

Yes, they catered to the rebels of silicon valley with their Aeron Chair that “..was a throne perfectly tailored to Silicone Valley’s Vanities“. A rebellious lean to the chair that would allow for perfect power yielding in meetings and frustration of the dot com boom.

More than that, they are experts in sitting. For E Sports, that is basically what you are doing, physically at least.

Targeting the competition. 

What you get is a whole different experience than what gamers are usually sitting in, which are race car chairs. That add, what Fast Company calls, “tacky” I would say, quirky.

Because race car chairs were designed for racing cars, they hug you while you are in motion. As Herman Miller figured out, gamers aren’t moving, and the way they sit and think about their set up is very different.

Its a sport, and Herman is treating it like that.

Gamers think about their mice, keyboard and monitor as performance gear, Miller extends that to the chair as well.

Their sitting stance –

  • Gamers lean forward almost in an attack stance of their computer.
  • Leading forward means they loose the support of the chairs back.
  • At times they sit on their feet to get leverage.
  • Sweating, under lights or just because they’re sitting for 10-12 hours, adrenaline.

G Embody answer to the sitting stance –

  • Lean in non resistance. For quick maneuvering and not worrying about fighting with the char
  • Copper infused cooling foam
  • “Pixelated support” 100 mattress like coils to the seat bottom. (For distribution of weight across the seat. Miller also says it encourages blood-flow.
    • Pixels near sit bones are harder, for support, while towards your legs are softer not to compress arteries.

Why it’s hot:

Collaboration to target a new customer. New entrant into a new category.

It also makes me wonder how far can this go. Gloves for non resistant mouse clicking?

A new type mouse and glove set that will respond quicker than a click.

Relaunching the Ford Bronco after 25 years

After 25 years the Ford Bronco is back for 2021. The model was discontinued in 1996 after the market shifted, to make room for a new breed of over-sized family SUVs that allowed suburbanites to feel like they weren’t over the hill. No, it was not discontinued because of OJ, but it’s a common assumption.

They had a lot to cover to make this relaunch a success.

  1. Connecting the new model to its storied history as “America’s first SUV” and educating the audience about that history? Check.
  2. Authentically tapping into the spirit of adventure and escapism that defines the category? Check.
  3. Triggering the public’s wanderlust after being cooped up for months by Covid? Check
  4. Embodying the power and rugged emotionality of wild horses and the Great American West? Check.
  5. Shrugging off Ford’s weak “Ford-Focus” image. Check.

The copywriters had a field day in the ads, with gems like:

  1. Literally calling the vehicle a “horse”.
  2. “You need something that can look adventure in the eye, and give it a firm handshake.”
  3. You need something that’s not happy until it takes you through whatever creek or snow or mud or mountain trail or dune or logging road or landmark with death in its name. You need a Bronco.”
  4. “Built as wild as what you’re looking for.”

To Dos:

Launch it like it’s the blockbuster event of the summer

OPENING LINE: “There’s still some wild out there…”

Explain why it’s the antidote to the disappointment of the American mythology’s unfulfilled promise of a life of adventure

OPENING LINE: “This country has a strange relationship with the wild. As much as we talk about it, and paint paintings of it, and sing songs about how we’re destined to be it, we seem to spend every waking hour in places that keep us away from it… so to get back to the wild, we need something built for it.”

Tap into our primal instincts of auditory association

Show audiences the R&D

Show off your history / remind people you’re a legend

Use the old to sell the new

 

 

 

 

 

Make it a lifestyle

Get the nerds to geek out on features

 

Ford Press Release:

“Academy Award-winning director and acclaimed cinematographer, photographer and professional climber, Jimmy Chin, collaborated with Disney CreativeWorks, Disney’s award-winning creative agency, to co-create network reveal stories with the Ford team.”

From Tech Crunch:

The launch of the Bronco looks to be a masterclass in nostalgia. For the last few weeks, Ford has been feeding journalists with media assets — pictures, staged interviews and upcoming advertisements. I’ve yet to see the full vehicle because in the end, Ford is not relying on the Bronco itself to drive sales, but rather, is digging deep into the power of nostalgia to move the Bronco off lots.

Recalling the past can help companies develop a unified theme around a product or service. In this case with the Bronco, only recalling part of the past helps companies dial in messaging. With Ford, the company wants consumers in agreement: This is a tough vehicle and it’s always been a tough vehicle. Forget about OJ, these adverts say. Instead, look at how the Bronco was used by two burly men bounding over the rolling hills of a cattle ranch. Ford is digging deep into American lore to show the Bronco as a rugged conqueror of the frontier instead of a conqueror of parking lot flowerbeds.

Why it’s hot:

They treated the relaunch like a summer blockbuster, teasing it for weeks.

They let viewers in on the R & D process and let the car nerds talk it up.

They connected to powerful auditory sensations in ads.

They showed us all the places we wish we could go, tapping into our pent-up covid wander lust.

They re-worked their famous tagline just for this: From Built Ford Tough to BUILT WILD

The Ford logo is nowhere to be found, even on the vehicle itself. This is all about the BRONCO franchise.

They built an affinity community around it with tons of features to make it a lifestyle.

Source: Twitter, Ford, Tech Crunch

 

Johnnie Walker Paper?

Diageo will start releasing its Johnnie Walker whiskey in a paper bottle in early 2021. Nothing about the caramel-colored liquor will change, but the environmental impact will be significantly lessened.

Whereas the current bottle is made of translucent glass and plastic, the new one is made from sustainably sourced, food-safe wood pulp. It’s finished in a moody and alluring opaque matte black, with the name in contrasting white type. It’s also 100% plastic-free and completely recyclable, according to the company. Yes, glass is recyclable, too, but it tends to have a bigger environmental footprint because it’s heaver it ship, which adds to its carbon footprint. And even though the original glass bottle doesn’t have much plastic, any decrease is a good thing—91% of the 300 million tons of plastic we produce a year isn’t recycled at all, according to the NRDC.

Diageo’s new bottle is a bigger deal than just a change in one whiskey’s package design. Through it’s new sustainable packaging R&D company, it’s creating a consortium with major brands, and Unilever and Pepsi have already signed on to roll out paper bottles in 2021.

Diageo hasn’t disclosed whether it will roll out paper bottles to its other spirits, but if packaging design continues in this direction, it could very well be time to pour one out for plastic.

Why it’s Hot:

Innovation like this could potentially change the future of packaging (and it’s a much-needed change).

Much like Allbirds has done for sustainable shoe manufacturing, Diageo could become the gold star for other spirits manufacturers. Diageo positioning itself as a leader for eco-friendly packaging within the spirits space could potentially help them attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Source

What is in a name?

The first step to know anything, is know the name of it.

What is in a name? Why does Destiny’s Child command you to say it?

Names are an indicator of value.

When someone knows your name, you probably know them. If you go to a store enough and they know your name, and others can imply you’re probably there all the time, this translates into better interactions because you are then valued.

Pronunciations are an indicator of knowledge.

There are approximately 1001 ways to butcher a name, and most of us have heard ours sliced and diced in a few ways. If not your first name, then probably your last. I know my own knife is pretty sharp at times. Albeit, a forgivable mistake, but when someone gets it right, doesn’t it feel like they get you a little bit better? You’re astounded, taken back a little, you probably think, How did they know that? 

The difference between knowing a fashion brand like Vetments by name and knowing it’s pronounced – (Vet-Mo). Knowing Louis Vuitton and knowing it’s pronounced (Loo-wie V-wo-ee-to). You become closer to the brand.

Ignorance is not bliss.

On the other hand when someone does get it wrong, depending on the person, it can spark quite negative emotions and can be quite triggering for some. Henrich Heins – a German poet in his 1839 autobiography goes in depth about his name and all of the emotions he felt at one point or another. He says, “…there is something unpleasant in having one ‘ s name mispronounced . Some people are made very angry by it.” (Him being one of them but don’t worry in his older age he came to terms with it.)

Where would this value matter most?

Places like job interviews where you need to show your skills or that you’d be a fit employer or employee. You are showing off you value the person by knowing their name, knowledgeable by pronouncing the name correctly and bonus points of memorable if they have a difficult name. If someone knows how to say your name, you can skip the apologies, awkward acceptances, or glazing over the you-already-told-them-how-to-say-your-name-but-they-still-get-it-wrong-after-anger and get to showcasing all your skills.

LinkedIn Pronunciations

LinkedIn has had for a long time the option to phonetically enter your name in so people would know how to say it. They will now be rolling out a new feature where you can upload a 10 second audio clip of you saying your name.

There are a plethora of ways that using someones name can enhance conversation. It’s direct and it’s personal, it’s not Hey! it’s Hey Chantelle! You are engaging them to speak, you are showing them you value them, and know them. And you are nominating them to engage with you, in a personal and direct way, vs the Hey which is impersonal. (Social Science & Conversation Analysis by Harvey Sacks) We see this in email marketing as well, seeing an email addressed to you is more attractive than one that doesn’t include it.

Source: The Verge

Why it’s hot:

A place for personalization that enable better and more valuable social interactions.

What if

When you placed an order to a store, and you actually got in the store they knew how to pronounce your name when you got there.

What if this was a security measure? To access an account you have to pronounce the name.

What if you pronounced your name when you call a customer service number, and they answered with the correct pronunciation of your name?

Twitter gets into the voice game

Select Twitter users on iOS will now be able to upload voice files in addition to traditional text, image and video files. This gives users more options to interact while getting into the voice space.

Interestingly, this could make it harder to moderate content, but I’m sure AI will fix all of that.

Why It’s Hot
It’s hot if the feature is based on user needs and it will be interesting to see how Twitter power users integrate voice in their tweets. But I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t catch fire.

The Internet of Taste

Taste works like a piece of music, with just 7 notes, you can make endless unique combinations. With taste, it’s about the five basic tastes: sweet, salty, acidic, sour, and umami. Every dish contains a combination of these with the intensity varying depending on the dish. So a pecan pie and a hamburger both contain all five tastes, but in varying amounts.

What does this have to do with the Internet? 

Enter the Norimaki Synthesizer. Developed by a researcher at Meiji University in Japan, has created a “taste display” that can artificially simulate any flavor. A taste machine!

As such, the Norimaki Synthesizer has five gels (one for each taste) that are arranged by an electric current. Through a process called electrophoresis that I cannot possibly explain, the electric current sorts the gels so that a desired amount of each is drawn towards the user’s tongue while the rest of the gel retreats away from the device’s opening.
Source: Inside Hook

Tests have indicated he machine is effective, fooling users to think they’ve tasted sushi, or a piece of gum.

Why It’s Hot: Nowhere near being mainstream, the taste tester could have a myriad applications. It won’t be a substitute for the real thing, but it could open a new way for consumers to “try” products remotely or it could be paired with environmental food initiatives to try to substitute environmentally unfriendly practices without losing taste.

Additional Source: gizmodo

Google releases Action Blocks for people with disabilities

Google released a new tool called Action Blocks for people with cognitive and motion disabilities. The system allows users and their caregivers to add Assistant commands to the home screen of Android phones and tablets. Each command is represented by a custom image and it can be controlled with just one tap. For instance, when a user taps an Action Block icon of a cab, the system might order a rideshare.

 

Also worth mentioning that Google has also improved its Maps apps to show if businesses or public venues have accessible entrance. When enabling this feature, you can see a wheelchair icon next to the location.

Why it’s hot: Embracing the diversity trend goes beyond race and gender. With something like 630 million people having some form of cognitive disability, this is not a niche group and it’s great that Google is providing services that ‘level the playing field’ for them.

Spotify’s Wellness Routine

Spotify’s latest addition to curated personalized playlists is meant to aid people who are utilizing the platform for self-care as part of their new routines. Daily Wellness is a combination of songs and short-form podcast episodes that are refreshed twice a day — to ease you into the morning and wind-down at the end of the night.

Spotify

As with their other “Made For You” playlists, the selection each user sees is based on their listening activity. Spotify also added tracks in between that explain what you’re about to hear, for example, “up next, a few songs for you,” and “now let’s take a break to hear some talk.” This way, the playlist truly feels like an interconnected experience meant to be listened to in order from start to finish to help you cultivate a new routine.

Aside from the rising need for wellness practices, Spotify may have been responding to how users are using the platform differently at this time. They noticed a change in people’s listening habits now that there is no commuting to and from work, noting that looking at the data, “every day looks like the weekend.” There was a decline in listening to longform podcasts in the mornings. They are seeing an uptick in streaming from TVs and game consoles and less from cars and wearables.

Why It’s Hot

For listeners, Daily Wellness is a smart use of personalized content to provide value in an organic way. For Spotify, it’s a good way to become part of their users’ new work from home routines.

Source

Survival of the Fastest

Innovation in the Age of COVID-19

Innovative businesses whose fundamental models have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic are acting fast to turn disaster into opportunity. See what a few of them are doing here.

One that caught my eye is Cheeky Food Events. For a company focused on running large-scale team-building events focused on cooking, Social Distancing could easily be seen as a complete deal-breaker. Instead of throwing in the…err…apron, Cheeky Foods instead pivoted their business into “delivery-based” catering, in which ingredients are delivered to the homes of each team member, and cooking instructions are delivered via live webstreams.

Maybe less effective as team-building, and not a long-term business model – but an agile way to maintain a revenue stream, while also providing customers with a valuable and enjoyable experience while they’re locked in and looking for new ways of remaining connected and entertained. This is so cool it’s hot.

Why It’s Hot: (Did you not read that last paragraph…?)

From econsultancy.com:

Here are six examples of businesses and brands that are innovating and transforming their product offering during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cheeky Food Events

Events, oriented as they are around large gatherings of people in a space, were one of the earliest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, with major conferences being cancelled and entertainment venues closing their doors even before full lockdowns were implemented in most countries.

For companies whose business is corporate events, the impact was particularly dire, because workplaces also quickly shifted to remote working to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Cheeky Food Events, an Australian company that offers corporate team-building activities oriented around cooking, found itself needing to rethink its business model for a newly-distributed world of work.

The company has since shifted to offering delivery-based catering to remote workforces: ingredients for a two-course gourmet meal and dessert, delivered safely to an employee’s home, that they can cook with the aid of a live webstream of a chef showing how to prepare and cook the meal. This enables organisations to still carry out team bonding and building activities in a distributed work environment, while Cheeky Food Events can still bring in revenue and put the skills of its expert chefs to good use.

Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg & Pernod Ricard

When the coronavirus pandemic first began to seriously impact day-to-day life, beginning with China in January, alcohol brands knew that they had a problem: no-one was going out to bars and clubs to buy alcohol any more. Many of them saw sales take a nosedive as a result of the disappearance of late-night leisure activities.

Four alcohol brands decided to adapt by partnering with ecommerce giant JD.com to take clubbing online. Beer brands Budweiser and Carlsberg, cognac brand Rémy Martin, and drinks brand Pernod Ricard joined forces with JD.com and Chinese music label Taihe Music Group to create an online clubbing experience, streamed directly to people’s living rooms and complete with liquor that they could buy from the stream and have delivered to their door.

Each week, JD.com is hosting a three-hour performance by one of the DJs signed to Taihe Music Group, with alcoholic beverages promoted throughout that viewers can buy. JD.com has already reported that one partner brand saw a 70% increase in sales of imported liquor during one livestream, with sales of its whiskey products increasing eightfold compared to the same period the day before. During another show, sales of beer increased by 40% compared to the day before.

Although the lockdown has now begun to lift in China, JD.com has said that it will “continue to leverage live broadcasts of music performance in clubs, live houses and even music festivals for products [sic] marketing, making it a long-term program to enrich customers’ shopping experience.” It has also stated that it will open the experience up to other product categories besides liquor.

While livestreaming, and in particular shoppable livestreaming, was already a major trend in China prior to the lockdown, this nevertheless shows that innovations and trends that develop in response to the coronavirus pandemic may well become part of our everyday lives.

Goat2Meeting

While a slightly more off-the-wall response to the remote working trend, this thoroughly deserves a mention. California-based animal sanctuary Sweet Farm used to bring in part of its funding from in-person visits, which dried up when the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying shelter-in-place orders hit the United States. To recoup some of that funding, its founders started Goat2Meeting: a service where companies can pay to have a goat, llama or other farm animal make an appearance in their zoom call to liven the monotony.

Goat2Meeting typically charges between $65 and $250 for various virtual interactions with the animals, ranging from a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants to a 10-minute animal cameo or a bigger virtual tour. Due to “incredible demand”, the farm has even added a bonus ‘VIP tour’ option for a $750 donation.

According to Business Insiderthe service has already had more than 300 requests from businesses, and its animals have made appearances in calls for Fortune 500 companies and tech start-ups. In one virtual happy hour for a law firm, lawyers brought their children along to the video call to meet the animals, in a unique remote working take on “bring your child to work day”.

Remote working got your goat? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Image: solomonphotos / Shutterstock.com)

Frame

London fitness studio Frame was forced to close its doors as coronavirus lockdown restrictions tightened, but the business has found ways to get creative with online content instead. It quickly launched Frame Online, an online fitness hub with a £10.99 per month subscription fee that allowed people who were stuck at home to get moving and keep fit with virtual classes.

Frame has also been using social media in creative ways to promote fitness, making six-minute clips of its workout classes available on IGTV and posting funny and relatable workout-related or inspirational content to Instagram. Frame’s Instagram posts promote a slightly more realistic image of working out at home than some fitness influencers (featuring a woman, for example, holding a glass of wine while doing stretches) and push back against so-called “quarantine productivity shaming” by encouraging people to book classes that suit their mood rather than feeling pressured into high-intensity fitness sessions.

How the fitness industry is responding to coronavirus with digital push

Kings Place

Kings Place, London is a cultural hub of live music, art and food that offers a variety of performances from live podcast recordings to classical music, illustrated lectures and jazz. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, however, the venue was forced to close its doors.

It has since found ways to bring its performances to audiences who are confined indoors and searching for entertainment, launching an online content hub called KPLAYER. The platform features excerpts from past performances and full-length shows streamed live every Wednesday; Kings Place is also using the opportunity to drum up interest for its late 2020 and 2021 programme by featuring past performances from these artists on KPLAYER.

Whole Foods

Demand for online grocery retail is higher than it has ever been as people search for ways to get essentials without leaving the house and putting themselves at unnecessary risk. While many grocery retailers already sell online, they are being forced to get creative in order to keep up with demand.

Organic and health food supermarket chain Whole Foods is reported to have turned some of its physical store locations into ‘dark stores’, a location that only employees can enter to pick up goods and fulfil orders. It’s not alone in doing so: parent company Amazon has also transformed one of its Southern California locations into a dark store, and supermarket Kroger converted one of its Cincinatti-area stores into a collection-only location to meet customer demand for alternative shopping services like click-and-collect.

Airbnb’s Guided Meditation With a Sleepy Sheep

The scene is everyone is staying home, no traveling. With evidence that people are wanting to get away, but can’t. What is a company like AirBnB to do?

Create online experiences. Where you can live in a different place for a while. Launching 50 experiences that are all live and not pre-recorded.  Designed and led by hosts all over the world.

A means for their hosts to continue to earn income in this weird world we are living in now. Opening their home without keys, without a cleaning fee, for an hour.

Experiences include :

Why its Hot: This is a new way to virtually share your home, in real time. Is a space for a concrete income for hosts online where Twitch, Youtube, and Periscope live.

Hands-free@Home

COVID-19 pandemic pushing sales of voice control devices

Sales of voice control devices are expected to experience a boom in growth, thanks to people being locked down and working from home. This is also expected to fuel growth in the broader ecosystem of smart home devices – as instructions to minimize contact with objects that haven’t been disinfected, make things like connected light switches, thermostats and door locks more appealing than ever.

Why It’s Hot:  A critical mass of device penetration and usage will undoubtedly make this a more meaningful platform for brands and marketers to connect and engage with consumers.

With so many millions of people working from home, the value of voice control during the pandemic will ensure that this year, voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019–despite the key China market being impacted during the first quarter of 2020, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

Woman Preparing Meal At Home Asking Digital Assistant Question

Last year, 141 million voice control smart home devices shipped worldwide, the firm said. Heeding the advice to minimize COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, even within a home, will help cement the benefits of smart home voice control for millions of consumers, ABI Research said.

“A smarter home can be a safer home,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI research director, in a statement. “Key among the recommendations regarding COVID-19 protection in the home is to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.

Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space, Collins said. Using voice control means people can avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles, and more. Voice can also be leveraged for online shopping and information gathering, he said.

When used in conjunction with other smart home devices, voice brings greater benefits, Collins said.

“Voice can be leveraged to control and monitor smart locks to enable deliveries to be placed in the home or another secure location directly or monitored securely on the doorstep until the resident can bring them in,” he said.

Similarly, smart doorbells/video cameras can also ensure deliveries are received securely without the need for face-to-face interaction or exposure, he added. “Such delivery capabilities are especially valuable for those already in home quarantine or for those receiving home testing kits,” Collins said.

He believes that over the long term, “voice control will continue to be the Trojan horse of smart home adoption.” Right now, the pandemic is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home to help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications, Collins said.

“Greater emphasis and understanding, and above all, a change of habit and experience in moving away from physical actuation toward using voice in the home will support greater smart home expansion throughout individual homes,” he said. “A greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to ensure those deliveries are securely delivered.”

The legacy of COVID-19 will be that the precautions being taken now will continue for millions of people who are bringing new routines into their daily lives in and around their homes and will for a long time to come, Collins said.

“Smart home vendors and system providers can certainly emphasize the role of voice and other smart home implementations to improve the day-to-day routines within a home and the ability to minimize contact with shared surfaces, as well as securing and automating home deliveries.”

Additionally, he said there is value in integrating smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with a range of features, such as collecting personal health data points like temperature, activity, and heart rate, alongside environmental data such as air quality and occupancy. This can “help in the wider response and engagement for smart city health management,” Collins said.

Source: TechRepublic

Water ATM’s in Rural India

How Piramal Sarvajal is using IoT to tackle safe drinking water issue for rural India

“Water is wealth; water is life. Without water, life would not endure, and access to freshwater and sanitation is a basic fundamental right of humans.”

Having said that, the availability of freshwater is still a significant challenge in India, especially in rural areas. According to reports, 25 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, and rural Indian women waste 700 hours annually collecting water. It is also estimated that by the year 2025, almost more than half of the urban population of India will live in water-stressed areas as this precious commodity is becoming scarce rapidly.

In this context, Piramal Sarvajal is committed to leveraging innovative technology to create easy access to safe drinking water in rural areas. Seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, Sarvajal has been working in the water space to provide clean drinking water in the far-flung rural regions of India.

Even today, three-quarters of India still drink unfiltered water, which, in turn, leads to diarrheal deaths and permanent fluorosis. To change this, Sarvajal founder Anand Shah created a program to achieve low-cost scalable solutions serving “safe water for all.”

Why it’s Hot: (In case you’re not sure if you want to read the loooong case study.) This is a really innovative convergence of technology, data and business model – aligned to solve a pervasive public health challenge, which negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Interesting perspective, as we collectively consider ways in which clients might respond to the current global public health challenge.

A Mission To Provide ‘Water For All’

Water scarcity has been a global issue; however, Piramal Sarvajal believed that the problem is multidimensional, and therefore the solutions had to be locally suited. Additionally, the voluminous nature of water, coupled with its vulnerability to contamination demanded a localised and efficient purification-cum-distribution system. While many well-intentioned NGOs have tried to implement charity-based water delivery solutions, these ventures have not proven financially sustainable over time. And therefore, the need of the hour was to apply business thinking to solve public service delivery problems.

In recent years, decentralised solutions for community-level drinking water installations have achieved significant success in creating safe water access, even in remote rural areas. Serving large enough numbers at affordable prices leads to financial sustainability while creating a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. A market-based, pay-per-use model aims to democratise drinking water access and achieve operational break-even by selling drinking water to the community at affordable prices. Piramal Sarvajal has been at the forefront of developing technologies and business practices in the safe drinking water sector that are designed to ensure sustainable solutions in both rural and urban deployment conditions. Sarvajal created a business model that operates at community levels to provide decentralised drinking water solutions to underserved communities.

Challenges

During its inception, Piramal Sarvajal had their first version of its purification unit, which had no governance-based technology involved, and all the operations were done manually. Since the initiative was bound to be a multi-location affair, distributed operations posed a severe challenge to efficiently and cost-effectively managing the project. Besides, generating sufficient demand meant breaking existing taboos around buying water by educating consumers about water-health linkages was also a challenge. Sarvajal’s team, therefore, innovated a solution that could be customised for the water contamination profile of any location with pioneering remote monitoring technology. It also invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.

The company used to charge to the franchisee, based on the volume of water purified by our unit. Although there was a mechanical flow meter installed in the unit that used to measure the volume of water purified by our unit, every month, a person had to go to the field to note down the reading from each unit. This process, therefore, used to take about two weeks to complete the round and collect the data. This manual reading process created a delay in the billing cycle. Additionally, they noticed some tampering with water meters at various locations, which indeed is a separate challenge altogether. To resolve these, Piramal Sarvajal explored applying cloud-based technology in order to create a smooth process by using sensors for the measurement of vital parameters like quantity, quality, pressure etc.

Water ATMs: Automated Water Dispensing Units

The company started its technological journey using the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with sensors and Human Machine Interface (HMI), which were attached with the PLC. “PLC-based automation has helped us in automating the unit’s operation and in remotely managing and monitoring the purification unit from our centralised location,” said Anuj Sharma, the CEO of Piramal Sarvaja. “Due to the fast-paced changes in PLC technology, we needed to update our software frequently. This triggered the design of our own, micro-controller based, control unit.”

Being the first organisation in India to develop the Water ATM, Piramal Sarvajal, operated the project in collaboration with a local entrepreneur or the local panchayat and community-based organisations to create sustainable livelihood opportunities within the chosen community. These cloud-connected and solar-powered WaterATM dispenses purified water 24×7. Villagers were issued RFID cards for collecting water, and these cards have a pre-paid balance, which can be recharged periodically as per consumption pattern. The RFID card gave the consumer the convenience of taking water anytime, anywhere across connected ATMs in a given location of flexible litres.

The IoT enabled technology installed at the purification level, ensuring the quality of every drop dispensed and supported oversight management on a real-time basis, while remotely managing locations for better governance. “The dispensing solution via Water ATM not only helps us manage and monitor user-level data but also supports targeted subsidies and variable pricing to support equitable and sustainable solutions at the last mile,” said Sharma.

The adoption of IoT technology for remote monitoring of the units helped the company in bringing transparency in operations across every transaction and ensured governance of widespread locations for both the service provider and the donor. This technology also assisted in managing the pay per use model, which, in turn, helped the consumers to pay an affordable price for clean drinking water — paying only for the service.

Operating Models

The technology that the company deployed was the Internet of Things (IoT), which required GSM/GPRS network as it acts as a backbone for communication between device and server. And, Sarvajal’s devices communicate with their centralised server over GSM/GPRS (2G) network. And ensuring that every installed unit has the availability of proper signal strength at the desired location. “Sometimes, we have noticed that even though there is a proper signal strength available at the place, still there is a delay in data exchange, which was due to the network latency,” said Sharma. And, hence, the company considered other network options like NB-IoT, which works on LTE (4G); considering its availability in most of India. The company also considered other alternate non-standard options, where telecom network is still not available, but it is under feasibility study.

Piramal Sarvajal also has enabled a technology device called Soochak, which is a remote monitoring device designed to be mounted on a commercial-scale water purification plant, to capture minute-by-minute machine status. This process works on Piramal’s technology backend, which allows the company to bring affordable, safe drinking water to underserved communities sustainably. At the same time, the touch screen of the machine easily guides the local operators on the daily functioning of the plant in the local language.

The company aimed to deploy technology at every stage — for specific parameter measurement Piramal Sarvajal have used state of the art sensors. As part of their regular preventive maintenance, these sensors are calibrated periodically so that they provide accurate data. With the help of IoT, the company gets its data from all units installed in the field, and these data are stored in their server’s database system. Also, considering the received data is large in volume; it practically wasn’t possible to do analysis manually, hence, decided to apply data analytics that provided them with meaningful information from the available data. “This helped us to know how many units are working in normal condition and how many units require attention from our maintenance team,” said Sharma. “Our devices are intelligent enough to provide real-time alerts to our operations team for any attention needed by them. Our operations team immediately acts on alerts and attends the situation.”

Application & Benefits

Sarvajal’s proprietary technology played a vital role in providing a comprehensive solution for delivering low-cost drinking water at the last mile. The various components of the technology include — water purification plants, monitoring device, the water ATM, and Sarvajal’s enterprise management system.

Sarvajal’s purification model was agnostic of the method of filtration and was utilising purification technology as per the source water. The water was getting purified through a site-designed five-step filtration process including media filtration, micron filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) filtration and UV purification. The employed proprietary technology of Sarvajal helped them in monitoring and controlling the machine operations, the source water quality, product water quality, litres produced (both rate and total), the overall health of the machine, and the amount of effluent created in the process. This real-time online monitoring enabled the company to assure a greater uptime in machine usage.

Sarvajal’s Enterprise Management System is the information processing hub of the entire company’s network of distributed installations. The SEMs receives all data sent over the cellular network for the Soochaks and Water ATMs and serves as the conduit for all operational activities within the business, such as inventory management, maintenance tracking, accounting, and asset tracking.

Additionally, the water ATM devices were solar-powered, cloud-connected, and operated automatically, which was designed to dispense water at the swipe of an RFID card. The ATMs tracked every transaction that took place, which enabled a sophisticated market forecasting and proactive multi-unit management. It also enhanced the scale of impact and optimised net investment per installation. Consequently, the ATMs established water-price transparent markets and assured 24×7 access to safe drinking water. Sarvaj’s initiative also presented an option to provide direct-targeted subsidies through government-run programs. Currently, the company is serving more than 7.30 lakhs of people daily, directly from our 1765+ touchpoints in 20 states.

While there are many players in the water space, Sharma believes, “What sets us apart is our effort of conducting community engagement activities to improve impact to increase the off-take.” Also, “Soochak throws data about machine health, so all maintenance activities are planned. Service tickets are even generated to track and also study the data generated. Our database shares information on all machines functionality at any given point in time.”

Sharma further added, “Being a technology expert in the water sector, we also aim to help the government by demonstrating the use of technology, so that the government can monitor the water supply schemes very effectively.” Sarvajal has extended the application of this model for a water pipe model too. The company partnered with the central government-run Jal Shakti mission to create a pilot model of monitoring the IoT-based water tracking mechanism at villages of Gujarat, Assam and Bihar.

This Brand Turned Carbon-Negative Vodka into Hand Sanitizer

Air Co., a startup vodka brand, is one of the distilleries shifting their production from alcohol and to hand sanitizer – but what stands out is that Air Co.’s product is carbon-negative. Their mission is to make goods that do good, so they’ve created a carbon-negative vodka using captured CO2 instead of yeast to make alcohol is now using that captured CO2 to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer.

“As of last week, we temporarily shifted our entire vodka production efforts to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer,” the company wrote in a statement today. “Sanitizer is 70% ethanol, our technology’s main output, and we will produce as many bottles as we can during this crisis.” The company is donating the bottles it produces to the people that need it most.

This carbon-negative hand sanitizer is made from captured CO2

Other distilleries across the country are doing the same – the Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta started producing hand sanitizer when local stores ran out, and it offered free bottles to the community, as did the Shine Distillery and Grill in Portland.

But what makes Air Co. stand out, is that it’s environmentally friendly. The company uses CO2 from nearby factories and runs it through a process that combines it with water to make alcohol, distilling the final product in equipment running on solar power.

Why It’s Hot:

A great example of how a brand totally quickly shifting its priorities to address pandemic especially a brand that isn’t in the cleaning or sanitizing market initially and in a way that is true to their brand values.

Source

Hefty makes a brawny claim about reducing waste

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to recycling and reducing waste is in educating people on what it is, why it matters, and how to do it, all while not boring people to death about it, or coming off as preachy. Hefty takes on that messaging hurdle with a little humor and smartly keeps the details vague.

Another issue with marketing a brand’s waste reduction is in equating it to something people can understand. How do you wrap your head around the fact that globally we produced 275 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2010! You can’t. People need a frame of reference to understand these abstract numbers, and this campaign does that with the help of a somewhat goofy strongman pulling a passenger jet, which represents the weight of the plastics that Hefty has managed to reclaim.

Once interest is piqued, people are taken to a micro-site that explains in more detail Hefty’s sustainability efforts: Hefty Sustainability.com

And what they’re doing is actually pretty cool and innovative. They have created a special bag in which to put hard-to-recycle plastics (those that are not accepted by most residential recycling programs) such as plastic food packaging, straws, candy wrappers, etc., which would otherwise most certainly end up in a landfill, in a tree, or choking the windpipe of a seabird.

Why it’s hot:

1. It doesn’t require you to identify as “green” in order to get it: A lot of “sustainable” brands lean into the lifestyle of the eco-conscious in their messaging, but that can turn off a lot of people who don’t identify that way. For a nationwide brand like Hefty, it makes more sense to stay away from identity and focus on their product and accomplishments.

2. It’s not much of an accomplishment actually, but it’s a start, and it’s backed up by action: Given the fact that more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, a well-informed consumer might scoff at Hefty’s accomplishment of converting one measly airliner’s worth of hard-to-recycle plastic into new materials. But they have a model that helps collect plastics that you can’t normally recycle, and uses their product in a way people are already using it to do so.

3. Mining trash is actually a way to generate revenue: This is a mostly untapped market for raw materials, which is essentially TerraCycle’s business model, of gathering material others can’t (or won’t) and reselling it, which had it earning $20+ million in revenue in 2018.

Source: Marketing Dive

Seamless launches Seamless+

Seamless launches a paid offering, aligning to DTC trends of paid membership combined with rewards offerings.

For $9.99/month you get unlimited free delivery and 10% cash back.They also integrate donation match and “Elite Care,” an exclusive customer service offering.

https://www.seamless.com/plus

 

Why It’s Hot:

In looking at what drives loyalty vs. what rewards existing loyalty, it’s interesting to see how paid models are making their way into reward programs.

A whopper of a success

Breaking the mold.

This is predictable but someone had to do it. The have it your way king finally gave it your way to less preservatives but a more competitive mindset. First the Impossible burger, and now no preservatives?

The ad displays a majestic coat of mold that attaches itself to a pristine 28 day old whopper. Doesn’t that make you hungry!

There is nothing more real than food decay. I feel this fits into a larger trend that reverts back to real, not just in food. Looking at more natural bodies in Aerie ads and the non-retouched photos on Urban Decay’s Instagram page. The fact that more cosmetic companies launching and releasing lighter coverage foundations that aren’t meant to cover every flaw. This kind of harsh humor making fun of facts about yourself being socially awkward or depressed. Finding the light in things that aren’t perfect.

This seems like a perfect time to land with something like this.

Especially when McDonald was quicker on the no preservatives bandwagon since September 2018. But didn’t have quite a splash as much as this one did. Especially on the defensive when and Icelander bought and then went on to live stream a 10 year old McDonald’s burger and fries for the world to see the non-decay. 

I sent the 10 year old McDonald’s burger to a cousin and she said,

“…you made me not wanna eat McDonald’s. Like i knew it was bad but i do not like to be reminded.”

What was interesting was when i told her to eat Burger King when she needed a fast food fix she just said ‘i haven’t had BK in a hot minute’ which maybe won’t flip her to Burger King.

Some other perspectives.